State of the Blog — Aug 2022

Dang y’all! Somehow it has been two years since I started this blog. It’s honestly hard to believe.

One of the key tenets of this blog is an open writing process. I’ve brought that to my serial novel, Razor Mountain, with my development journals, and I bring it to the blogging process with these “state of the blog” posts every six months or so.

Metrics

  • Years blogging: 2
  • Total Posts: ~250
  • Total Followers: 87
  • Monthly Views: ~375 (average over last 3 months)

I do my best to not worry too much about visitors, views, and all the other bloggy statistics, but I do keep an eye on them. In the past six months, I really have nothing to complain about as far as the graphs and numbers. I don’t pay much attention to the totals. I’m small by most standards. All I really look for is growth, and the blog has been growing steadily. It took until this May to hit 2,000 total views, and a couple weeks ago I hit 3,000 total views.

One Post to Rule Them All?

One interesting statistic that has become apparent over the last few months is that I have a single post that has out-performed all the others, by a considerable margin.

Great Writing Can You Say Hero? is a post from about a year ago. I had intended to start a series of posts talking about some of my favorite pieces, but I’m distractable, and I’ve never written another of these posts. Views for this post have steadily increased over the past few months, to the point where now they account for about 50% of the views I get every single day!

It’s important to note that I did not intend or expect this. I just wrote a post, and hoped (as I always do) that it would be interesting for others. This particular post hit a search algorithm sweet spot.

You see, there is a steady flow of people looking for Junod’s story about Mr. Rogers, and not very many search results on Google. Because of this, my post shows up near the top of results for several similar searches. This traffic is almost entirely driven by Google.

This is a potent illustration of the power of search engines to drive traffic. This is why people spend so much effort chasing SEO. However, the million dollar question is whether this traffic is actually good for me. I just happen to be capturing views in search of something else. On the other hand, the more people who read the blog, the more likely that some of them will be interested and come back.

The next six months will be interesting, because I’m also seeing search engine-driven traffic on a couple other posts on a much smaller scale. We’ll see if these other posts start to grow in a similar way.

The Long Tail

Even setting aside the search engine traffic, I’ve now reached a point where the post of the day is usually not the primary driver of traffic. On days when I post something new, it is almost always out-performed by a random assortment of my past articles.

This is why so much advice for “content creators” boils down to “keep making a steady stream of new stuff.” On rare occasions, you’ll make an outlier that performs better than most of your other stuff, but you’ll also create a large body of work that collectively draws in a bunch of people over time.

Looking Back and Setting Goals

These six-month reviews are partly about looking back, and partly about re-evaluating what I’m trying to achieve.

Looking back, I feel like I’ve really hit my stride. I have a steady rhythm of alternating weeks: Razor Mountain episodes and a development journal one week, then two writing-related posts and a reblog the following week. Every once in a while I skip a post. I’m not a robot. And I no longer worry about maintaining a perfect schedule.

I usually have a backlog of ideas for posts. Sometimes I do a series on a topic, sometimes I do one-offs. I’ve become a lot more comfortable with off-the-cuff posts and less editing. I’ve also become a lot less stressed about throwing my work onto the internet where everyone can see it. (There will probably always be a little pang of stress about that, but I think that’s probably healthy.)

My goals right now are:

  • Finish Razor Mountain
  • Write a couple of short stories alongside the novel
  • Write more, and especially write more fiction
  • Think about what’s next for the blog after Razor Mountain

See You Next Time

That’s all I’ve got for this two-year blogoversary. Thanks for reading, and we’ll check back in six months.

Reblog: So You’ve Decided to Unfollow Me — Cory Doctorow

In today’s reblog, the insanely prolific author, blogger, tweeter, speaker, etc. Cory Doctorow gets a little misty-eyed for the days of yore, when the internet was all about finding the little corners where people liked the same things you liked and you all could collectively geek-out over it.

Doctorow is of the opinion that the rise of social media, cross-site user tracking and online advertising empires drew people away from many of those hidden corners of the internet and encouraged websites to cast the widest-possible nets, seeking sheer number of views over engaged communities.

Whether or not you believe that narrative, it does seem like we’ve lost some of that early internet magic. Doctorow is here to remind us that we don’t have to try to please everyone. We don’t have to chase those big, but barely-engaged viewer numbers. It’s better to build that little corner of the internet that’s all about the thing you love. It’s better to get together with a few people who also love that thing.

It’s hard to overstate how liberating the early years of internet publishing were. After a century of publishing driven by the needs of an audience, we could finally switch to a model driven by the interests of writers.

That meant that instead of trying to figure out what some “demographic” wanted to read about, we wrote what we wanted to read, and then waited for people who share our interests to show up and read and comment and write their own blogs and newsletters and whatnot.

[…]

In the golden years of internet publishing, the point was to find the weirdos who liked the same stuff as you. Freed from commercial imperatives, the focus of the blogosphere was primarily on using your work as a beacon to locate Your People, who were so diffuse and disorganized that there was no other way to find them.

That’s the dynamic behind the explosion of fandoms and fanfic, behind esoteric maker communities and weird collector rabbit-holes, behind conspiratorialism and fringe politics and the whole loompanic wonderment of it all.

Read the rest over on Cory Doctorow’s Medium site

State of the Blog – Feb 2022

It’s been six months again, and here we are at another “State of the Blog” post.

I write these partly for myself, and partly for other bloggers who are interested in what someone else is experiencing. Part of creating things for other people is about presenting an experience. Assuming you’re not completely cynical and opportunistic, a blog is going to be at least a little personal, but there’s a temptation to put the best version of yourself forward. Unfortunately, that often means that nobody wants to talk about their statistics or their experiences, unless those statistics and experiences paint them in a very positive light.

This blog is largely built around the idea of openly talking about the process of writing, the ups and downs and the unaltered details. The goal of these “State of the Blog” posts is to openly talk about the blog itself, and how I feel it’s going.

Goals

Six months ago, I gave these overarching goals. These all still apply today.

  • To hold myself accountable to a writing schedule
  • To develop an audience of readers
  • To provide something useful to other writers
  • To make connections with other writers

Blogging is the best tool I’ve found so far to keep myself writing on a regular basis. If I don’t write anything else, I am still writing 2-3 blog posts per week. In years past, I have often gone weeks or even months without writing, so this is very positive for me. That said, I still want to be writing more fiction than I am, and I need to figure out more strategies to motivate myself to do that.

Developing an audience is slow going. I think that’s partly because I’m not putting out fiction quickly or consistently, and partly just because it takes time and effort to catch eyeballs, and only a certain percentage of people are going to be interested. I’m continuing to see steady growth, so I’m not too worried about that, but certainly getting more good work out there wouldn’t hurt.

Providing something useful for other writers and making connections with them go hand in hand. Again, based on the statistics, it seems like more and more people are appreciating what I’m posting. I’ve also been working on making connections with other writers who blog regularly and have work that interests me. That’s a slow and tedious process of internet search-an-find, but it is rewarding to discover someone who posts great content, and even better if they like what I’m doing as well.

I have a couple short-term goals for the next six months:

  • Post Razor Mountain chapters more consistently and more frequently
  • Find more great writing blogs to follow

Metrics

  • Years blogging: 1.5
  • Total Posts: ~165
  • Total Followers: 62 (and 9 on Twitter)
  • Monthly Views: ~175 (average over last 3 months)

I try not to put too much stock in statistics, but if I’m honest, it’s hard to not pay a little bit of attention. So I take my data points during these six month intervals. Since this is the third of those intervals, I can start to make some comparisons between those three samples.

The short takeaway is that everything is just about double what it was six months ago. In terms of raw growth, that’s still closer to exponential than linear. It’s slower than it was between the six month mark and the one year mark, but I don’t think that’s terribly relevant when dealing with small numbers. In general, if the lines continue to go up, that translates to more people finding and liking the site.

I crossed the 1,000 view mark in December ’21, after about 15 months of blogging. At the current rate, I’d expect to hit the next thousand by May ’22, five months later. Not huge numbers, but steady improvement.

“Engagement” feels like a gross web business buzzword, but what’s probably more important is that I’ve seen more engagement in likes and comments. Comments are still hard to come by, but that’s to be expected. From what I’ve seen, it’s not uncommon to see anywhere from 25:1 – 100:1 ratios of views to comments. It’s just a lot easier to get people to read what you’ve written than it is to get them to comment on it.

In the next six months, I’d obviously like to see numbers continue to grow, but my biggest indicator of success will be more comments and likes. Feedback is great. Dialogue is even better.

Reblogs

In the past six months, I’ve started doing Wednesday reblogs more frequently. Basically, any week where I don’t post Razor Mountain chapters, I’ll post a Wednesday reblog. I’ll be honest, part of this is that it’s low-effort. I love the blog, but I also limit the time I spend each week on the blog. Hopefully this is a good way to highlight something that I found interesting or useful for other writers, without taking too much time away from other projects.

So…yeah, let me know if you like the reblogs, or if they just clog your feed. I can adjust accordingly.

Razor Mountain

Six months ago, I was still outlining and doing pre-production work on Razor Mountain. Since then, I’ve finished outlining and done all of the book-adjacent tasks like writing the back cover and designing the front cover. I’ve posted five chapters. That’s progress.

I made quick progress initially, then slowed down around the holiday season. Thanks to some real-life factors, I ended up feeling overwhelmed by the schedule I was trying to maintain. I’m now in a more relaxed place, and thinking about trying to push chapters out with a little more frequency.

I do enjoy the cadence of putting out a chapter in 2-3 parts throughout a week, and following it up with a Friday Razor Mountain Development post to talk about the process of writing the chapter. I think it will be interesting to look back on those development journals when the book is done, to see how it has evolved since I first started outlining.

I’m continuing to post chapters to Wattpad and Tapas alongside the blog, but my audience on those platforms is just about nonexistent. It’s understandable since I haven’t put much effort into networking with other writers on those platforms, and I’m not in the more popular genres and styles that I see on their front pages. For now, I’ll keep posting. There’s no point worrying too much about promotion until you have something you really want to promote. At some point when I have more chapters posted (or maybe even the entire book) I’ll dig into those platforms and make a little more effort to draw some attention.

Next Stop: Two Years

I continue to have lots of ideas for stand-alone blog posts and series. I used to worry that I might run out of ideas for a blog, but having written for this long, I’m now confident that I won’t run out any time soon. I have one specific series in the works that I’m excited about—more on that in a week or two.

That’s all I have for now. See you again in six months, for the two-year anniversary of Words Deferred.

Reblog: The Memex Method — Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow is an opinionated activist, technologist, futurist, and insanely prolific writer of novels and short stories, essays, speeches and Twitter threads. He’s also been blogging for more than two decades. To say that he gets a lot done would be a gross understatement.

Interestingly, Doctorow suggests that blogging hasn’t taken away time from his other projects. He believes that the blog is just a commonplace book (or better yet, a memex) that’s made available to the public, giving the writer a natural incentive to be a little more organized. It’s a tool for kicking around thoughts and opinions, assembling and tending to them until they’re ready to become a story, an essay, a book. It’s an idea generator.

Like those family trip-logs, a web-log serves as more than an aide-memoire, a record that can be consulted at a later date. The very act of recording your actions and impressions is itself powerfully mnemonic, fixing the moment more durably in your memory so that it’s easier to recall in future, even if you never consult your notes.

The genius of the blog was not in the note-taking, it was in the publishing. The act of making your log-file public requires a rigor that keeping personal notes does not. Writing for a notional audience — particularly an audience of strangers — demands a comprehensive account that I rarely muster when I’m taking notes for myself. I am much better at kidding myself my ability to interpret my notes at a later date than I am at convincing myself that anyone else will be able to make heads or tails of them.

Writing for an audience keeps me honest.

Read the rest over at Cory Doctorow’s Medium page…

1K

This happened a couple weeks ago, but I figured it was worth a mention.

It’s not exactly a huge number, but it’s something. Looking back, what’s more interesting than the actual number is that the first ~500 took eight or nine months, while the second ~500 took about four months.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and special thanks to the regulars. Seeing the same names in my notifications each week makes me think I must be doing something you like.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #46

This is part of my ongoing series where I’m documenting the development of my serial novel, Razor Mountain. Be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead! You can start from the beginning here.

Last Time

I continued revising and editing chapters one and two. I created a book cover that I’m satisfied with.

Preparing For Launch

I have to admit that I slacked on the writing front this week. I made small tweaks to my first two chapters, but I’m waiting on reader feedback to do another big editing pass. I really need to get myself in “writing mode” if I’m going to start pumping out weekly episodes. Luckily, if there’s anything having a blog has taught me, it’s that deadlines are a great motivator.

There’s really not that much left to do before I embark. However, there are still a few of those non-writing tasks that need to be done. First, I finished setting up a Razor Mountain project on the two services that I’m planning to use for serial publishing: Wattpad and Tapas. I considered some other services, or even something like Substack, but I think it will end up being a lot of busywork keeping these updated along with the blog. My hope is that publishing on multiple platforms will increase visibility, but I’m also going to be evaluating their strengths and weaknesses for future projects. I may stick to one in the future, or dump them for something like Kindle Vella (which has exclusivity requirements).

I already ran into one annoying issue: while Tapas allows scheduled posts, Wattpad does not. That is a real downer for me, since I always prefer to schedule posts, and it would be nice if I could post new parts everywhere at the same time. Wattpad will just have to be a little out of sync.

Site Improvements

While I’m writing for the sake of writing, I do hope that posting Razor Mountain on other services will bring some new readers to the blog. In anticipation of that, I did some cleanup and improvement that I’ve been meaning to for a while.

I spruced up the Razor Mountain page by adding the book cover and description. I also added pages for microfiction and drabbles under the fiction section, so those little stories aren’t buried in old posts. Finally, I updated my “About” page with my author profile.

I’ve been looking at changing the blog theme, but I haven’t found a theme that I’m entirely happy with, so the search for that will continue. I may also make adjustments to the home page.

Results

I added and updated the fiction sections of the blog, and I set up Razor Mountain on Wattpad and Tapas.

State of the Blog — August 2021

Has it been a year already?

In the spirit of being open about my process and progress, I decided to do a State of the Blog post every six months. This gives me a chance to evaluate my work, and hopefully will be helpful to others.

Goals

Why am I blogging?

  • To hold myself accountable to a writing schedule
  • To develop an audience of readers
  • To provide something useful to other writers
  • To make connections with other writers

This is the context that helps me decide how well I’m doing.

I started the blog around August 2020, deep enough into the pandemic to know that it wasn’t going away any time soon. Like many people, I was tired of the dread-induced lethargy, and looking for some creative outlet. I also needed something to help me keep my writing on a schedule; something to keep me accountable.

I didn’t have a plan exactly, but I did have a bunch of ideas. I’ve made vague attempts at blogging before, and they’ve never gone anywhere. This time, I was determined that if I was going to do it, I’d do it properly.

I had the idea of writing a serial novel, released episode by episode. I have a love of writing, and I knew that I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned with others. So before I started, I forced myself to list 100 possible topics for blog posts — to make sure I had enough fodder to keep me posting twice a week for at least a year.

The Metrics

  • Months blogging: ~12
  • Posts: ~85
  • Followers: 29 (and 9 on Twitter)
  • Monthly Views: 93 (average over last 3 months)

These numbers are small. That doesn’t bother me. I’d love to reach a bigger audience, but the important thing is the trend line, and the numbers are steadily growing. I can still get excited when I set a weekly or monthly record in some metric, and right now that’s happening pretty frequently.

Two Posts

After the first few months, I settled into a consistent schedule. On Mondays, I post something about the craft of writing. On Fridays, I post a development journal, where I document my progress on my serial novel, Razor Mountain. I always write my posts early, do a fairly quick editing pass, and schedule them for release.

This basic two-posts-per-week model has worked pretty well. The Monday post provides variety. I can write a Reference Desk post about useful tools, or a post about writing concepts like hooks, conflict, or outlining. Meanwhile, the Friday Razor Mountain posts provide consistency.

Writing these two posts per week also gave me a good baseline for how much time I could devote to the blog. I’m not a full-time writer. I have a day job and other projects keeping me busy. I needed to make sure I wasn’t trying to write more for the blog than I could sustain long-term. Two posts per week was good for me.

Three Posts?

After months of that cadence, I’ve started experimenting with more content. Part of this was finding things that I enjoy posting about, and that readers would enjoy reading. Part of it was finding ways to avoid dramatically increasing the time I spent writing for the blog each week.

I’ve decided to add a Wednesday post to my weekly schedule. I set myself a rule that I can’t spend more than an hour on a Wednesday post. These posts can be shorter and/or sillier than my other posts. I’m also trying to tie them into my other writing projects. Some examples of these Wednesday posts are my series on Twitter microfiction and my “ground-breaking” Writing RPG™.

I still consider the Wednesday post optional. I may skip it sometimes.

The Future

My biggest goal right now is to finish outlining and prep for Razor Mountain. Once that’s done, my posting schedule will probably change again. I still plan to post weekly development journals to talk about the writing process, but I’ll also be posting the actual chapters/episodes.

Being an inveterate planner, I will be writing chapters ahead of my posting schedule, so I have time for beta reader critique and revision. I plan to post episodes on other services as well, and I’ll be going into the details of that process.

I’m also working on interacting more with other bloggers. As a classic writer introvert, it takes a bit of effort to overcome the imposter syndrome and convince myself to comment on other blogs, even when I think I have something to contribute.

I’m also trying to reblog more of the good writing craft posts that I see, especially on days when I don’t have my own content scheduled. It took me a few months to find a decent list of WordPress blogs in my wheelhouse, but now I’m regularly seeing post in my feed that are worth sharing.

Next Stop

I’ll see you back here in six months, for the 1.5 year blogiversary!

State of the Blog – February 2021

This is something I’m going to start doing periodically, maybe a couple times per year. I want to reflect a little bit on what I’ve done, look forward at what I’m planning, and try to evaluate what’s working and what I want to change.

When I started this blog, I knew I wanted to write posts about craft, and I knew I wanted to post serialized fiction. I also had the vague idea that I’d like to document the process of writing as I do it. Beyond that, I decided I would figure it out as I went along.

Metrics

  • My first posts were in September, so the blog is about 6 months old.
  • I’ve made about 25 posts.
  • My readership is still quite small: less than 10 followers, averaging 1-2 views per day.

When I started, I had no particular schedule or planned topics, and my posts were pretty sparse and spread out. However, over the first couple months, I realized that I wasn’t very interested in journal-style posts. I like discussing the craft of writing, and if I’m going to do that I want to focus on a topic and dig into it.

Although I knew that I wanted to post serial fiction, I didn’t have a story ready to go. Some serial fiction writers advocated jumping right in blind. Others suggested finishing the whole thing before posting. Part of what I wanted from serial fiction was posting chapters as they were written, but I’m a prepper, and I didn’t think I’d be putting out my best work if I didn’t plan it out carefully. Between my day job, family, and other hobbies, it was going to be a while before I was ready to start posting chapters. Rather than quietly working for months in the background, this seemed like a good opportunity to document the process, as I was brainstorming and outlining.

Around December, all of this solidified into a posting schedule: two posts per week, with craft-focused or variety posts on Mondays and development journals for my serial writing project on Fridays.

I also began to write my posts ahead of time and schedule them. This allows me to post at consistent times of the week, even though I grab little chunks of writing time throughout the week. It also allows me to build up a buffer of scheduled posts. If something prevents me from writing for a week or two, or I just want a vacation, the blog keeps on trucking.

I’m currently keeping a buffer of about four posts (two weeks with the current schedule), but I’d like to get a full month ahead – about eight posts. As I get to that point, I may begin to introduce some smaller, ad-hoc mid-week posts. However, I’m ramping up slowly to avoid burn-out.

When I start posting chapters of Razor Mountain, they’ll take over the Friday slot. I expect to still write weekly development journals, but they’ll probably be much shorter when I’m already posting the chapter that resulted from that work.

Bloggery, Community and Readership

At this point, I’m relatively content to write for myself and send my bottled messages into the vast sea of the internet. In the long term, I’m not interested in writing only for myself. I want to grow my readership over time and get my writing in front of a larger audience.

A common refrain among content creators is that there are three main contributors to success:

  1. High-quality, original content
  2. Consistency
  3. Luck

The content is what I already spend the majority of my time on. I’ve got a consistent schedule, and plans to slowly expand that over time. And there’s not much to do about luck.

Beyond that, I’m looking at small ways to catch more eyeballs. I’ve read a bit about SEO and the interaction of WordPress tags and categories. I created a Twitter account (@DeferredWords) and set up automatic tweets for my new posts. I’ve also been finding and following other WordPress blogs to get a reader view full of good posts.

I’m probably not going to connect to other social media. Twitter is the only app I use with any regularity, and I don’t particularly want to support Facebook/Instagram.

Some community-building and cross-pollination will happen naturally through my comments on other blogs and my tweets and retweets. Some will come from search engines as I tweak my tags and categories and just continue to post on more topics.

Looking forward, I know I still have more work to do on site layout. I’ll be expanding the menu and possibly adding a few more widgets to make navigation easier and point readers to what I consider my best content.

Fiction

I want this blog to be my writing home on the web. However, I’m also planning to cross-post new chapters of my serial fiction elsewhere. Posting in multiple places adds more busywork, but it also gives me the opportunity to get more eyeballs on my work. WordPress is great, but it’s not necessarily the best place to gain visibility for fiction.

Right now, I plan to cross-post to Wattpad. This seems like the one of the largest open venues for serial fiction around today. It’s available on big and little screens, and it’s got a slick interface. I’m also thinking about Tapas for similar reasons. Tapas seems a little more focused on comics than novels, but still a good spot for serial fiction.

I’ve looked at a variety of other options. There are a few sites dedicated to fiction, and even serial fiction specifically, but some look pretty rough, and generally don’t seem to reach a very large audience.

There is some side work that I’ll have to do for these platforms as I get closer to actually publishing. I’ll need to write up things like an author bio and back-cover blurb, and I’ll have to come up with (or commission) a book cover.

To Be Continued

So far, the state of the blog is “small, but making progress.” There’s obviously room to improve. I’d love to have more content, but I’m happy to ramp that up slowly over time. There are design improvements to be made, but I’ll work on those bit by bit as well. I want my main focus to be consistent, quality content right now.

I think I’ll probably do another one of these around mid-summer. By then, I’ll be posting Razor Mountain chapters weekly. I’m excited to see how things are going in six months!